Dry Needling: A Time-Tested Treatment That Sticks It to Muscle Pain

You’ve probably tried massage or heat therapy for muscle pain, but have you considered dry needling? Although it might not seem like the ideal fix for muscle pain, the reality is that a growing number of individuals – including both athletes and those with chronic pain – swear by dry needling’s ability to alleviate muscle pain.

Known as dry needling trigger point therapy, this therapy is often included as part of a larger physical therapy program, and it’s available at Precision Laser Joint and Spine Pain Center in Glen Burnie, Maryland.

In this article, Dr. Dustin Hamoy explains how this time-tested treatment sticks it to muscle pain.

Understanding muscle knots and triggers points

Although the thought of poking small needles into your muscles doesn’t seem like it can alleviate pain, research points to the contrary. To understand how tiny needle pricks provide pain relief, let’s first discuss why your muscles hurt.

Strained muscles (or even just overworked muscles) can develop myofascial trigger points. These trigger points are sometimes called muscle knots, and they are irritable and tender. Because these knots are contracted abnormally, they don’t get the blood supply (and therefore oxygen) that they need to be able to return to rest. As a result, the tissues become more acidic, and the nerves become extra sensitive. In other words, trigger points are tight bands of muscle tissue that limit your mobility, restrict your range of motion, and cause local tenderness and referred pain.

Understanding dry needling 

Here’s where the dry needling comes into play. Thin needles are inserted through your skin directly into the trigger point. The needles are dry, which means nothing is injected into your muscle. The dry needles do three things:

  1. They stimulate the trigger point, which helps encourage normal blood flow to the area.
  2. They release tension in the muscle.
  3. The needle poke triggers your nerve fibers to stimulate your brain to produce endorphins (which are your body’s pain relief hormone). 

Although you might feel a little sore at the treatment area, this is a temporary side effect. Many people find that, despite the needle pokes, the therapy is effective in alleviating muscle pain. In both a 2014 review and a 2017 review, researchers noted that dry needling is a safe and effective treatment for muscle pain. The goals of dry needling include alleviating local muscle pain, reducing referred pain, deactivating your trigger points, and improving function and range of motion.  

Dry needling and physical therapy

Dr. Hamoy may include dry needling as a part of a more comprehensive physical therapy program. Here at Precision Laser Joint and Spine Pain Center, we offer innovative therapies such as Kinesio Taping® Method, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), massage therapy, and more!

To find out if dry needling is right for you, or if you’d like to learn more about other therapies, you can reach us at 410-324-2968. Or, you can schedule an appointment 24/7 with our online booking tool.

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